Charlie Blair Named New Regional Chief of National Wildlife Refuge System
By Joanna Gilkeson
On February 11th, Charlie Blair started as the new Midwest Regional Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Blair brings to the position a wealth of experience managing National Wildlife Refuges. "I have worked from the East coast to Alaska and back to the Midwest. I was really interested in a diversity of experiences and seeing and working in new places," Blair said about his time thus far with the Service.
Charlie Blair canoes at a 2012 Summer of Paddling Event on the Mississippi River (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
For the last five years Blair has served as the project leader at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District in Bloomington, Minnesota. There he directed a large staff and implemented a diverse refuge program in an urban setting. One of the special programs at Minnesota Valley he worked with is the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Trust, a non-profit established to implement the refuge mitigation plan resulting from the financial settlement with the Metropolitan Airport Commission for flights over the refuge.
Charlie has also been successful in initiating many new partnerships at the refuge and established a youth partnership with the Minneapolis Schools through the Step-Up Achieve program.
"The genesis of this partnership for me was that we need to connect with youth before they enter college if we expect them to choose a career in the natural resource field. Many of these young people find out about the Service well into their college studies after they have decided on a career track." Blair said. "The other element of the program is connecting the Service with urban populations. Providing an opportunity for urban youth to learn about the outdoors and that the importance of the work of the Service is critical if we expect them to support our efforts. Here, we had a great opportunity to do something."
Blair hopes to continue engaging youth and the public in his new position, "Our future depends on public understanding and support for what we do. We will have continue doing an even better job if we are going to be successful," he said.
Before coming to Minnesota Valley NWR, Charlie was the manager at the Maine Coastal Islands NWR for 4 years. He has also managed the Sherburne/Crane Meadows NWR Complex in Central Minnesota, Ottawa NWR in Ohio, Ninigret NWR Complex in Rhode Island and Stewart B. McKinney NWR in Connecticut. Blair has held other refuge positions in Maryland, Delaware and Alaska, and served almost two years as a refuge supervisor in the Midwest Region. Through Blair’s experiences working at a variety of refuges he had the opportunity to interact with different cultures and people across the U.S.
"My thought process about working in different regions was that it would be interesting, exciting and help me understand the system as a whole as I moved with the Service in various positions. I also thought that working in different areas would provide me with a better perspective on how the system operates on a national scale and it has been very helpful," he said.
Blair’s geographic and broad program experience will be instrumental in leading the Refuge program here in the Midwest Region. Blair said of his new position, "I’m looking forward to it. We have some challenges ahead but we have always stepped up in Region 3 to meet those challenges."